FCC Relaxes Carrier WEA Rules for Earthquake Early Warnings


The FCC has released an Order granting Participating Commercial Mobile Service (CMS) Providers a waiver of Section 10.540 of the Commission’s Wireless Emergency Alert (WEA) rules, effective November 30, 2019. This waiver would permit Participating CMS Providers to forego enhanced geo-targeting for earthquake early warnings (EEWs) and related public safety messages – – also known as “Shake Alerts” – – issued by the United States Geological Survey (USGS). The USGS has identified the need for a broadly applicable waiver because Section 10.540 of the Commission’s rules require that EEWs incorporate up to 100 unique geographic coordinates to specify the geo-fenced target area impacted by a pending earthquake. Unfortunately, in order to meet the ATIS standards for EEWs, the present technology available to the USGS can sometimes take up to 15.36 seconds before Alert Messages are eventually received by the customer. Furthermore, newly-adopted ATIS standards could delay these EEWs by over four minutes. The USGS notes that any such delays “reduce or nullify the value of earthquake early warnings.” Recognizing that less geographically precise EEWs are better than no EEWs, the USGS, in partnership with FEMA and the FCC, has proposed a solution whereby CMS Providers can forego enhanced geo-targeting and instead deliver alerts under the code “EQW” to an area that “best approximates” USGS’ targeted polygonal area.

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